Q&A: Is Marco Rubio eligible to become vice president?

Rubio: Born in the U.S.A.

I've heard a lot about Marco Rubio being a possible vice presidential candidate. The articles I have read in the Tampa Bay Times seem at odds with him being able to be a candidate. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read that his parents came to this country when Marco was a young boy. His parents applied for citizenship, but didn't apply for him until a few years later. If true, how could he be elected vice president since he is not a natural born citizen? And what would happen if he were vice president and something happened to the president? Would he automatically become president? If the president has to be a natural born citizen, doesn't the vice president? This is confusing. Please explain.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was born May 28, 1971, in Miami to Cuban parents who had immigrated to the United States in 1956. His parents became naturalized citizens in 1975.

The 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides this guideline for determining citizens:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The criteria has been further refined over the years, but this basic tenet of citizenship fits Rubio's situation. Even though his parents were not American citizens at the time of Rubio's birth, the fact that he was born in the United States automatically makes him a citizen. Therefore, he is eligible to become vice president or president.

There are some so-called birthers who interpret "natural born citizen" differently and say Rubio (and President Barack Obama, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, among others) should not be eligible for the presidency or vice presidency. They rely on writings at the time of the formation of the republic and references in court cases since then to contend that "natural born" means a person born to U.S. citizens.

A Tampa Bay Times story by Alex Leary of the Washington bureau addressed this issue on Oct. 20, 2011. Here's an excerpt:

"The arguments aren't crazy," said Georgetown law professor Lawrence Solum, an expert in constitutional theory. But, he added, "the much stronger argument suggests that if you were born on American soil that you would be considered a natural born citizen."

Solum said that became clearer with the 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship on former slaves born in the United States (now a contentious issue involving the children of illegal immigrants.) Birthers say the amendment fortifies their case because it does not use "natural" born.

"It's a little confusing, but most scholars think it's a pretty unusual position for anyone to think the natural born citizen clause would exclude someone born in the U.S.," said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta who specializes in immigration and citizenship.

Q&A: Is Marco Rubio eligible to become vice president? 08/12/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 12, 2012 5:30am]

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